This weekend, Jews, Christians and Muslims are all celebrating major holidays at the same time. Ramadan, Passover and Easter all coincide in a rare occasion. But in Europe, the war in Ukraine overshadows all three holidays.
A Ukrainian and a Russian woman who work together at a Rome hospital took part in Pope Francis’ “Way of the Cross” service. But the meditation they wrote was scrapped after protests by Ukrainian Catholics claimed the war made it inappropriate.
In Jerusalem, Palestinians and Israeli police clashed Friday at the al-Aqsa mosque. More than 150 worshippers were injured at the site that is sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Holidays important to a number of faith communities will converge this month for the first time in decades. In a time of rising faith-based bigotry, this should be a moment for Chicagoans of diverse backgrounds to learn about each other.
By Hind Makki, Sara Trumm Apr 2, 2022, 4:03am EDT
As leaders in our own faith communities and in inter-religious circles, we are anticipating a spring filled with holy days of multiple religious traditions.
For the first time since 1991,Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists and Indigenous nations will observe holidays simultaneously. In April, this includes celebrations of Ramadan, Passover, Easter, Vaisakhi, Mahavir Jayanti, Theravada New Year and the Gathering of Nations.
This convergence, happening amid rising intolerance and discrimination, is the perfect time to connect, lift one another up and uphold our shared ideals: Treating our neighbors with dignity and respect, ensuring religious freedom for all.
Our traditions, Islam and Christianity, call on us to know one another, welcome the stranger and to not slander one another. While the unprecedented global refugee crisis continues to grow, some say we must fear newcomers. Religious extremists and nationalists hijack our moral and ethical values, turning plowshares of cooperative living into swords. Coming together amid differences is not an easy path, but is rewarding for individuals and communities. We are better together than apart.
In our interfaith work, we witness solidarity and the building of meaningful relationships. A small interfaith group in Hyde Park began refugee resettlement in their neighborhood in 2016. It now has more than 225 supporters and is helping 10 families find self-sufficiency in their new lives.
One year, they hosted a quiet but unforgettable celebration of Nowruz (New Year marked in many countries along the Silk Road) with a refugee family in their new home. They were careful to celebrate in a way that would not re-traumatize the children — without crowds or the loud bang of fireworks.
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Druze leaders call on Russian patriarch to push Putin towards peace
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Druze leaders gathered in Jerusalem on Monday to publicly call for peace in Ukraine and an end to the ongoing war.
The religious leaders came from around the Holy Land to take part in the interfaith gathering, which was held at Moscow Square near the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Speakers included His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Sheikh Hassan Abu Galion, and Rabbi David Rosen.
“The main purpose of this event is to express our solidarity, prayer, and unity with the people of Ukraine,” Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, related to The Media Line. “We are not against anyone, but the images that we are seeing from the media are terrible and not justifiable. We have to express our solidarity. I hope and pray that all the religious leaders in Ukraine and Russia will contribute to the solution of this terrible situation.”
After giving speeches, religious leaders held an inter-religious prayer and called on the Russian Patriarch Kirill to leverage his position as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to help bring peace.
Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze leaders attended the interfaith gathering in Jerusalem’s Moscow Square on Monday, March 21, 2022. (Maya Margit/The Media Line)
“We came to the holiest place in the world where all religions are present and coexist in peace,” Sheikh Hassan Abu Galion of Rahat told The Media Line. “We call on global powers to make peace for the sake of children and women.”
“We recite a holy call on behalf of hundreds of millions of believers around the world to stop the killing in Ukraine,” said Rabbi Rasson Arousi, speaking on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore.”
Once the gathering ended, the group posted a letter addressed to the Patriarch Kirill on the wall of the nearby Russian Orthodox Church, known as the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Jamal Rahman is cofounder and Muslim Sufi imam at Interfaith Community Sanctuary in Seattle. He is a popular speaker and author on Islam, Sufi spirituality, and interfaith relations. Interfaith Community Sanctuary won second prize in the 2020 UN World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize from A Common Word.
Tell us about how Interfaith Community Sanctuary became a reality. Where did the idea come from?
In 1992, I was very keen to establish community in Seattle. I left my previous career and began teaching self-development classes. I was trained in Sufism, the mystical side of Islam, so that’s what I taught. I was surprised by how many people came to take the classes.
In seven years we had a few hundred people. From there we started to ask: What does it mean to have an interfaith worship service? We were people of different religions, mostly Christians but also Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. All of us were looking for a connection to something higher and deeper.
What kind of worship could we do that unites everyone? There are a few things that transcend the boundaries of religion. One is silence. There’s no such thing as a Jewish silence or Islamic silence; it’s just silence. So, we decided, let’s just practice silence in each of our Sunday worship services.
Second, music. Everybody loves music. We had chanters from different traditions, so we added chanting. I would always quote Rumi, “Music is the sound of the spheres. We have been part of this harmony before.” And once we chant and sing and play music, it keeps our remembering fresh and it doesn’t matter what your religion is.
Food is how we came to know the other on a human level. We built that in as well. So we focused on silence, chanting, and food.
Over time, we came to say that we focus on essence, not form. We asked: What is the experience, the taste, we want? We would also say that we wanted to move from a knowledge of the tongue to a knowledge of the heart. That can come from personal relationship, connection, spiritual companions in your life, music, silence, and sharing different spiritual practices.
Every tradition says a person is to become a better human being, a more developed human being. And everyone wants to be of service to God’s creation in a genuine way. Rabindranath Tagore has this wonderful poem: “I slept and dreamed: / Life was joy. / I awoke and found life was service. / I served and lo, service was joy.”
WASHINGTON — On June 20, communities from around the globe celebrated World Refugee Day, established by the United Nations as an international day to acknowledge the strength and courage of people forced to flee their home countries due to conflict or persecution.
Yet, the commemoration of World Refugee Day comes at a record low for refugee resettlement.
Despite the long tradition of welcoming refugees in the United States, largely supported by faith-based organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, the number of refugees resettled in the United States was at its the lowest in 2020 since the founding of the resettlement program in 1980.
At the same time, the past year marks a record high number of people forcibly displaced around the world.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are currently 26 million refugees who have been forcibly displaced due to “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
In response to the current climate for refugees, World Refugee Day interfaith prayer services were organized across the United States by MRS, in collaboration with the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors and the Princeton University Religion and Resettlement Project, to pray publicly for the well-being of refugees in the United States, across religious and political lines.
According to Todd Scribner of MRS, one of the principal organizers of the event, part of the purpose of these nationally coordinated services was to pray with and for refugees as a way to rebuild relationships with these communities, and highlight “the religious traditions out of which many of these communities have emerged and embraced.”
In the heart of Berlin, a group of Christians, Jews and Muslims is getting to work building a home where all three religions can come together. The goal is to overcome conflict and suspicion.
For years it has been just an idea. On Thursday, it begins to become reality. A cornerstone will be laid on the future site of House of One, a building project by Christians, Jews, and Muslims looking for a place to meet. Located in the middle of Berlin, the site is just minutes from some of the city’s most popular and historic areas.
“This is an important project for Berlin,” said Pastor Gregor Hohberg, who helps lead the initiative. “Jews, Christians, Muslims, as well as atheists and people from other religions, have been talking about it for at least ten years.” The city needs a place like House of One, Hohberg added, to offer the opportunity to engage one another. “It’s an extremely important symbol,” he said, calling the site a “place of peace.”
An information pavillion on the building site provided information on the project until 2019
House of One is building on 700 years of Berlin history. Its location is close to where the city began and was the site of the Petrikirche. The 13th-century church had the highest tower in Berlin, and it survived in various forms until the East German communist government tore it down in 1964. The area has been a treasure trove for archeologists, who have found remains of more than 3,000 people buried at the church, as well as ruins of other churches.
A unique project
If all goes according to plan, House of One will stand atop this history within five years. It will be home to a church, synagogue, and mosque, built around a central meeting space, to serve as a symbol of coexistence. The designs call for a 40-meter-high structure of stone and brick. The construction budget of about 43.5 million euros ($53.3 million) has been largely secured.
From the laziness that is contented with half truth,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord deliver me.”
—a Kenyan prayer, from “The Catholic Prayer Book”
This past weekend, I spoke via Zoom to a Lexington group called the Christian-Muslim Dialogue, which, as its name implies, is made up of Christians and Muslims who meet regularly to discuss religion and related matters.
I made a presentation to the group, and that was followed by discussion among the members and me.
I found the experience inspiring, and it reminded me why it’s important for people walking different paths to stay in touch with each other. Living in a fairly homogeneous corner of Kentucky, I don’t get to have interfaith conversations often.
In my presentation, I offered four observations about interfaith (and also interdenominational) dialogues that I think make them important.
First, if we hope to grow spiritually, it’s helpful to be able to hold more than one thought in our head at the same time. Getting to know people from other belief systems—whether we’re Muslims meeting Christians, or evangelical Protestants meeting Roman Catholics, or Mormons meeting Buddhists—introduces us to ideas, personal histories and theological traditions we might not have encountered before.
Marquette University senior Anna Buckstaff said she appreciates opportunities to meet Muslims and Christians who are interested in connecting around common core values.
The Catholic from Palatine, Illinois, who attended the Lenten Peace Feast in February with Muslims and Christians, said the experience helped her reflect and deepen her understanding of her own faith.
“I really appreciated how the faiths share an emphasis for tradition and value the time spent with family and loved ones,” she said. “I have really enjoyed being exposed to different approaches to care and value God’s creation.”
She is looking forward to the Ramadan Peace Feast, online from 2 – 3:30 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 18. College students and young professionals are encouraged to participate. Registration is now open.
Peace Feasts, new interfaith meeting experiences, offer Muslim and Christian college students in Wisconsin a chance to learn about each other’s sacred seasons, as well as to connect and build trust. The idea is for young adults of each faith to invite each other to their holiday feasts—this year during the Christian Lent and Muslim Ramadan.
The program is free to participants through financial support from Interfaith Youth Core, described on its website as “a national non-profit working towards an America where people of different faiths, worldviews and traditions can bridge differences and find common values to build a shared life together.”
IFYC was founded by Eboo Patel, a Chicago-based author, speaker and educator who said he was “inspired to build this bridge by his identity as an American Muslim navigating a religiously diverse social landscape.”
What to expect
The Ramadan Peace Feast is the second of a series. Young adults who would like to join in are welcomed, whether they attended Part I or not, said Rev. Nicole Wriedt, San Diego program director of Peace Catalyst International, who with Milwaukee-based PCI program director Steve Lied, is the Christian co-organizer for these events. They collaborate with the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s president Janan Najeeb.
For many people of faith, the recent religious holidays — Passover, Easter, Ramadan — are traditionally a time of gathering. But under stringent social distancing measures enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, life in the Northwest has been marked by retraction and isolation.
But even as holidays are reimagined — sometimes drastically — and services go remote, leaving houses of worship empty, local faith leaders say that interest in religious services has gone up, and congregants have found new ways to receive and share practical support and relief through their spiritual communities — maintaining a sense of connection in an otherwise dark time.
The loss of in-person worship has come at a cost: Holidays have been disrupted or transformed, and some of the most important rituals of congregants’ lives will have to be radically altered or delayed, faith leaders said.
Hyder Ali, president of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), based in Redmond, said it was unlikely MAPS would be able to provide full services for Ramadan, which begins April 23 this year, and is typically when the mosque brings in almost 50% of its donations — “a significant amount of our operational expenses.” He said he did not anticipate in-person services reconvening in time for Ramadan, but that MAPS would provide virtual engagements on the holiday.
He also said MAPS would be assisting the community during this time in other ways, “doubling down to do what we can to serve the community” because “churches and mosques serve as a first line of defense” for people facing fallout from the outbreak.
Pope Francis recently completed an apostolic visit to Iraq. Any journey of a pope is newsworthy, but this trip captured the hearts and imaginations of many. It was the first visit of a pope to Iraq.
Iraq is a country that has been the center of the world’s attention for decades, being the site of several recent wars. It is the country where the biblical city of Ur is located, the ancestral home of the Patriarch Abraham, who is revered by three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Pope Francis, like his predecessors St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, each have embraced the moral imperative to reach out to people of good will across the religious divide and work for understanding and peace.
During all three of these papacies there have been people that are skeptical of such outreach, mainly due to fear of “syncretism.” That is the amalgamation of different religions that can appear to be a sort of “melting pot” of religions. Each faith tradition that engages in syncretism gets added to the mix, and a new synthesis emerges, related to the component parts yet changed and different. There is a legitimate concern that this could happen in interreligious dialogue.
Vatican II in the Declaration on Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) recognized the pluralistic world of today and reflects that the Church “in her task of promoting unity and love […] considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship” (NA §1).
The misperception between dialogue and syncretism resulted in a message of clarification 35 years later with Dominus Iesus, which clarified that engagement in dialogue does not mean surrendering the truth of the Gospel. It particularly warned against relativism, which some had inferred from dialogue that all religions are the same or are simply alternate roads to achieve salvation.